New SketchyPharm is here!

sketchypharm new videos

Mark your calendars – we are adding the final two videos to SketchyPharm TOMORROW (Wednesday, February 8, 2017)! These two videos are Vitamin D and Thyroid.  SketchyPharm is now officially complete!  Be sure to check them out, and if you have any feedback, please let us know!

Check out the new videos now – and if you don’t have a SketchyPharm subscription yet, sign up for a free trial!

CampusCube for Guys: College Care Package Subscription Box Review

I went to medical school over 2,000 miles away from home, all the way on the other side of the country.  I often found myself homesick and stressed from the pressures of medical school as well as the unfamiliar environment, and looked forward to care packages from my family and friends.

This is where CampusCube comes in.

campus cube guys review

CampusCube is a college care package subscription box – they have different boxes for Girls and Guys, and you can choose to send  a school year of care packages to your student, or one-off boxes, such as the Finals Cube or the Birthday Cube. Each CampusCube care package is curated for today’s college student will include yummy snacks, useful gadgets, and personal care items.  This is a great alternative to creating your own care package – CampusCube curates the package and takes care of the shipping for you!

The boxes ship based on school schedules – you can check out the full shipping schedule.

This is a review of the January/February cube for Guys.

campus cube review for boys

Each CampusCube is carefully packaged and includes a personalized note.  The colorful boxes can also be up-cycled into storage for your dorm room.  This month’s theme is “Fresh Start” and each January/February CampusCube package includes:

  • Nomadic Blend Fruit & Nut Mix
  • Awake Chocolate Granola Energy Bar
  • Forto Organic Coffee Drink
  • Krave Chili Lime Jerky
  • Annie’s Naturals Instant Mac and Cheese
  • Goodie Girl Mint Slims Cookies
  • Stainless Steel Thermal coffee mug
  • Dude Quick Shower Wipes
  • CampusCube Exclusive “Sorry We’re Closed” Door Hanger
  • Harry’s Truman Razor Handle (Each kit includes one 5-blade cartridge and an incentive card for four more free blades from Harry’
  • Harry’s Foaming Shaving Gel

I loved unboxing everything – it felt just like a care package from mom, crammed to the brim with healthy snacks and personal care items I needed.

The first thing I tried was the Goodie Girl Mint Chocolate Cookies, since they looked like Girl Scout Thin Mints (my mom would actually hoard the Girls Scouts cookies for me and ship them to my dorm).  One bite in, and I realized these were not like the Girls Scouts Thin Mints at all – as they are gluten free!  They definitely tasted gluten free to me – however, I shared them with the rest of the SketchyMedical office, and they were devoured in minutes. No one else could tell they were gluten free.

I loved the addition of a FORTO Organic Coffee – I just wish there was more than one!  My medical school days were powered by coffee and energy drinks.  This one was a Mocha flavored coffee shot, just lightly sweetened.  My CampusCube care package also had a bag of potassium sparing diuretic Nomadic Blend Fruit & Nut Mix to go with the organic coffee, which made for a great breakfast combination.

My next item was a Coconut Apricot Awake bar.  This was my first time having an Awake Energy Granola Bar, and I really enjoyed it! I drink quite a bit of coffee everyday so I’m not sure if the caffeine in the bar had any effect on me, but I enjoyed the fruity taste and the soft texture of the granola bar.

awake granola bar review

Krave Jerky is a snack staple for me, and I was glad to see this in my box.  I also loved the addition of the  Annie’s Naturals Instant Macaroni and Cheese – these simple and convenient cups are so useful when you having a cram session.  My go-to was ramen during finals season, so it was nice to see a healthier alternative in this CampusCube.

This only took some water and 2 minutes in the microwave, and made for a tasty bowl of MAC (minimum alveolar concentration) mac and cheese.

All of the personal care items are student staples: an unbranded Stainless Steel Thermal coffee mug, CampusCube Exclusive “Sorry We’re Closed” Door Hanger (this immediately went up on my office door), Harry’s Truman Razor Handle (Each kit includes one 5-blade cartridge and an incentive card for four more free blades from Harry’, and Harry’s Foaming Shaving Gel.  The Dude Quick Shower Wipes cracked me up – it would be great if they could just hand these out on campus or in the library…

campuscube subscription box review

Conclusion: All in all, I loved the CampusCube for Guys!  Having been in school for 86% of my life, I am well versed in care packages.  I would have liked to see some health supplements or analgesics, like how my own mom would send, but all in all I thought this was a very useful and carefully curated care package.

PS: Can you name all the #SketchyIRL items in this box?  First one to do so and tag us with the answer on Facebook or Instagram gets a signature SketchyMedical t-shirt!

Joshua is a recent graduate, and the newest member of the SketchyMedical team.  CampusCube for Guys was sent to The SketchBook for review purposes.

The Sunday Spin: Vaccinations and The Police

The Sunday Spin, Episode 6: “Every Breath You Take”
The Singles by The Police

the importance of vaccinations

Well, respiratory season is among us… Being on the wards in Pediatrics, we definitely feel the strain of respiratory illnesses during the winter. Turns out, babies don’t handle respiratory viruses so well. Maybe it’s their low respiratory reserve, maybe it’s the fact that they don’t receive their first set of vaccinations until two months. Who knows…

Oh wait, it’s both. Hence why we recommend something referred to as “cocooning.” Those outside of Geriatrics, Obstetrics, Oncology, and Pediatrics may not recognize this term, but in essence we use it to refer to the practice of vaccinating healthy individuals in order to protect those at greater risk (ie babies, immunosuppressed patients, pregnant women, and the elderly). Protect those at greatest risk? What a brilliant idea! Why don’t we do that more often???

In this age of anti-vaccination sentiment, where conniving skeptics like Dr. Bob Sears, Jim Carey, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr,, and Jenny McCarthy are provided with platforms by which to promote their agenda; not only do those at risk suffer, we all do! I’m not going to beat around the bush about vaccination, I personally feel that those that choose not to vaccinate themselves and their children are not only making a decision about their own well being, but are also putting everyone they come into contact with in danger.

Now some of you may be thinking, “Greg, chillax, people have the right to decide whether or not to vaccinate, who are we to impose vaccinations on people” or “Vaccines aren’t completely safe.” Some of you will ignore this rant and that’s fine. But, if you practice medicine and don’t believe in vaccination, I would encourage you reconsider your career choice because, given our medical knowledge of vaccination and its benefits; you would be doing a disservice to the practice of medicine by not fighting for universal vaccination.

Vaccinations are not perfect – but, the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks of the infections they cause. Remember Poliomyelitis and what a horrific disease that was? Have you ever seen an iron lung? No, that’s because we eradicated Polio in the United States! Thank our Medical Forefathers for that. I would argue that the work done by Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk in creating a successful polio vaccine outweighs that of Alexander Fleming and the discovery of Penicillin. When is the last time you heard of a child dying of epiglottitis or meningitis secondary to haemophilus influenzae infection? You haven’t? Hmmmm, the dinosaurs that have been practicing pediatrics for decades frequently reference how many kids a week they would see with epiglottitis and that they would line children up and do 5-6 lumbar punctures in the PICU each night.

Our medical vaccination knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds over the past century and thankfully we have great organizations like the Center for Disease Control and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia monitoring the safety and efficacy of our vaccines.

Our problem isn’t the vaccines, but that we are not providing and promoting vaccinations enough. Don’t believe me, review the virology section of SketchyMicro and decide which preventable disease you want to contract as a result of not getting vaccinated… Why am I so staunch and hell bent on vaccination? I have seen children go into respiratory failure from preventable diseases like influenza and die from meningococcemia. Children, who probably would have survived, had someone vaccinated them.

On that happy note, here are some great resources about vaccinations for those who care to arm themselves against the skeptics and antivaxers…

Now typically, I will refrain from posting greatest hits collections. Yet, as I was listening to Synchronicity (Remastered) (the fifth and final album produced by the Police in 1983) I couldn’t make it through both sides without losing interest…


Overall, Synchronicity did very well with respect to sales, chart topping singles, and awards. Which is understandable with tracks such as “Every Breath You Take,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” “King of Pain,” and “Synchronicity II.” But for me (feel free to disagree), the rest of the album falls flat… I guess I could have used more songs on the album synchronous with “Every Breath You Take,” a song that ironically nearly broke up the band prior to its release. Tensions ran high between Sting and drummer Stewart Copeland, and reportedly the two engaged in fisticuffs during a rehearsal of the song. Animosity was so intense during recording that each band member had to record in a separate room, rather than a single studio. Recording separately helped to both diffuse the situation and also benefited the record by creating better sound quality.

Aside from the singles off of Synchronicity, the premise of the album is fascinating – it was inspired by ROOTS OF COINCIDENCE, which explores Carl Jung’s theory of Synchronicity. This term was coined to describe experiences where two or more events occur in a meaningful manner, but are causally unrelated. The best example of these phenomena comes from French author, Emile Deschamps. In his memoir he recalls that he received plum pudding from an acquaintance named Fontgibu at a young age. Years later, he orders plum pudding in a restaurant, only to find that Fontgibu received the last helping of pudding. Late in his life, Deschamps ordered plum pudding and jokingly stated that the only thing missing was Fontgibu and coincidentally, none other than Fontgibu walked into the restaurant… A pretty wild association of coincidences that are causally unrelated…I’m aFreud that I cannot provide further justice to the theory of Synchronicity.

the police the singles

Back to the Police, “Every Breath You Take” has a rather curious undertone that is often misinterpreted by young lovers. Behind the pop guitar riff and harmonious chorus lies a set of, what Sting calls, “sinister and ugly” lyrics. The song was written during a break up between Sting and Frances Tomelty due to an affair between Sting and neighbor, Trudie Styler (who also happened to also be Tomelty’s good friend). Amongst the controversy, Sting retreated to the Caribbean and wrote the song about obsession and a dark feeling of possession with his lost love, Frances Tomelty. Now the song is often thought to be a love song and played at many weddings. Mazel tov!

Lastly, I would like to take this time to quote my father to remind you that when you have a cough, “Cover your damn mouth!”

Until next time, keep breathing and encourage your patients to get vaccinated!


The Sunday Spin: Weekends in the Hospital and A New Hope

The Sunday Spin, Episode 5: “A New Hope”

Dude Ranch by Blink 182

weekends working in the hospital

After a brief hiatus while on PICU (the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit), I am back in action! I hope everyone had a wonderful winter break, regardless of your denomination or holiday of choice.

Working at a private children’s hospital, the presence (and presents) of Christmas were certainly felt throughout the wards. Being on PICU, I totally lucked out this holiday season… In exchange for working a 28 hour call on Christmas day, I got a 4 day ultra-platinum weekend – New Year’s Eve weekend!!!

For those who haven’t experienced call in the hospital quite yet, allow me to introduce you to your future weekends. Unlike our brilliant friends, who decided to go into careers with the traditional work week (“the ol’ 9-5”), and enjoy their weekends. Instead, those of us who chose medicine unknowingly surrendered our right to a normal weekend long before we even realized what was happening… Thus, a universal system was devised to describe what kind of weekend is approaching.

Black Weekend=No days off, named for its dismal semblance to the Dark Ages.

Partial Weekend=One day off, at least you get a chance to do laundry.

Golden Weekend=Saturday and Sunday off!!! Basically, a normal weekend…

Platinum Weekend=Three days off, albeit rare, these three day weekends often occur during elective rotations when outpatient clinics close for holidays.

And finally, the mother of all weekends, the pearl to my oyster, the frosting to my cake, the mac-daddy of all mac-daddys, the beloved ULTRA-PLATINUM WEEKEND!

As you can probably guess, the ultra-platinum weekend is like the elusive Mewtwo, but less fictitious – a three day weekend during a major holiday! … I have been living this mini-vacation to its fullest extent, driving long distances and ringing in the New Year by falling asleep at 2200…


download sketchymicro

I enjoy a party as much as the next twenty-something year old, but I like my sleep a smidge more… It’s like my Mama always says “life is like a…” no wait, “Nothing good ever happens after 10 o’ clock.” Although I don’t know how true that is. I fondly remember many a night of 2 am shenanigans during college and even more-so during medical school, but alas I am getting older and with my chosen profession, I have learned to claim my sleep whenever I can.

In light of a new year, I would like to take a moment and reflect upon the tragedy that was 2016. Most recently, we mourned the loss of Carrie Fisher, our beloved Princess and every prepubescent male Star Wars fan’s first crush. I mean, come on, that outfit from Tatooine was more skin than I had seen at the beach! But, looking back at Return of the Jedi now, I recognize how blatantly chauvinistic the movie was for Leia Organa to be enslaved by the revolting bloband forced to dance wearing erotic clothing. Very few characters in the Star Wars franchise have been sexualized the way Carrie Fisher was. But, at the same time, she was portrayed as a strong independent women, harboring rebel secrets, enduring imprisonment by the Empire, and saving cute little teddy bears on Endor.

My apologies for nerding out back there… But, I am sad to see the loss of Carrie Fisher. Similarly, we tragically lost David Bowie, Gene Wilder, George Michael, Harper Lee, George Martin, Miss Cleo, Prince, R2-D2, and Admiral Ackbar.  2016 was certainly a loss for music, movies, and the fortune telling industry.

I want to believe that 2017 is going to be a better year, but the horizons already look bleak given the political climate in both the United States and the World.  But, lets not get into such somber and serious topics – this is the Sunday Spin after all! Therefore, I have chosen an amusing album for this week’s spin, which provides a nod to Miss Fisher and sets an optimistic tone for the year to come.

dude ranch blink 182

Who better to ring in 2017 than the raunchy, childish punk rock band from Poway, California: Blink 182. Blinks’ second album, Dude Ranch, was a landmark album for the band and the final album for drummer Scott Raynor, prior to being replaced by Travis Barker (coming from the Aquabats). With the release of “Dammit,” a catchy, fast-paced single, Blink 182 was invited to join the Second Season of Van’s Warped Tour in 1996, which provided mainstream exposure for the band.

Other singles selected from the album include “Apple Shampoo,” “ Josie,” and “D*#% Lips,” which was later renamed “Rich Lips.” As mentioned earlier, “New Hope,” is a track about Mark Hoppus’ hopeless on Princess Leia.

blink 182 vans warped tour

I also really enjoy “Voyeur,” which tells of a pathetic young man sitting in a tree, hoping to catch a glimpse of a girl changing; but instead gets an eyeful of her father… Pretty juvenile, I know. Lastly, I found the inner fold of the album entertaining, as it was designed as a throwback to Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. and designed to look like an old time-y postcard.

With that, Happy New Year! Let’s hope for good things to come…




How I scored 269 on the USMLE Step 1

Today we are so excited to introduce Joey, a SketchyMedical user who scored a 269 on the USMLE Step 1! He wrote to us sharing his success, and graciously outlined his study tips and tricks to ensure success on the Step 1.  Joey is happy to share his knowledge with medical students around the world, and is our guest blogger today.  We hope these tips can also help you ace the USMLE Step 1!

how to get a high score usmle step 1

Hello Sketchy friends!

My name is Joey, and I am currently a third-year medical student. I wanted to take a few moments to share some guidance that allowed me to excel on the infamous USMLE Step 1, the anxiety-provoking Goliath that one must pass to advance to the next stage of our long journey. Fortunately, by combining SketchyMedical with some diligence and dedication, I was able perform very well on Step 1, and I’d like to outline how I utilized SketchyMedical (SketchyMicro and SketchyPharm) to insure success on test day.

1. I firmly believe that SketchyMedical is a supplemental tool to incorporate into your Step 1 arsenal.

For me, just subscribing to Sketchy and watching all the videos multiple times (and on 2x speed) was not enough. It’s like when students say they want to get through First Aid at least four times before the USMLE Step 1 – but does passively speed reading the textbook actually help? If I tried going through the SketchyMicro videos as fast as I could, I noticed I started to get overwhelmed and confused by jumbling pictures and treatments together, especially since many classes of bugs are treated so similarly.

sketchypharm sulfonamide

I had to have at least some sort of knowledge and foundation that could be actively retrieved and utilized to make neural connections while listening to the stories and analyzing the illustrations. I can recall the sulfonamide video as I’m writing this and see the fireworks in the background and the mailboxes near the sidewalk. However, it is not enough to just remember the fireworks, a mailbox, and a portable toilet while you are actively taking the test. These are wonderful cues used to jog your memory that purine antagonists affect nucleotide synthesis which in turn can affect RBC and leukocyte production (neutropenia as a side effect); that CD4 counts of 100 and 200 represent cut-offs for sulfonamide use in HV/AIDS patients, and that these drugs are commonly used for UTIs. Your mind has an amazing ability to store information; however, adrenaline and stress during the actual exam may cloud one’s ability to effectively gather what you already know – and SketchyMedical does a fantastic job to counter this natural stress response. Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying you should not repetitively watch the videos and look at the illustrations. In fact, you must to solidify the images in your mind, but with the prerequisite of having at least some idea of the subject beforehand in order to be able to apply these mechanisms to clinical vignettes.

SketchyMedical (or another efficient study tool of your choice) plus a foundation of knowledge (either from classroom lectures or textbooks) work together so you can apply these medical principles and mechanisms to clinical situations on the test.

how to get a high score on step 1

2. One must have a system when working through all the SketchyMedical videos.

I found I could retain information from SketchyMedical quite efficiently while integrating it with classwork, question banks, and readings from textbooks (i.e.; First Aid). If you’re covering fungal infections or diabetes pharmacology in class, watch those sections simultaneously in Sketchy.  It’s crucial to understand that Sketchy will not provide every single detail about a process, but it will absolutely help you rummage through the endless amounts of information to tell you a fact that differentiates a class of medications from another class, or give you a fungal characteristic (the size or location of varying fungi) so you can choose the correct answer choice on the exam.  Randomly watching videos does not work (at least, not for me).

sketchymicro usmle step 1

Sketchy is not designed to get you a 99% on your school’s lecture exams, as these tests tend to include minutia you must recall from one or more PowerPoint slides. However, Sketchy will help you hone in on the high yield, crucial facts that you must remember for Step 1. In this respect, SketchyMedical serves as the ultimate filtering and organizational tool. Additionally, you should definitely go back to re-watch videos and/or look at the sketches and corresponding hotspots after getting practice questions wrong on a specific topic. Don’t stop until you are certain you can distinguish and identify what a question is asking: rest assured, questions may have buzzwords or information that may lead you to two specific answer choices, and only offer one word or phrase that serves as the deal breaker. For example, I can picture the Legionella video with the salt falling into the water (hyponatremia), the couple on the dock with the flower (fluoroquinolones), and the furnace on the ship (charcoal- agar). It simply isn’t enough to know that Legionella affects the immunocompromised or causes pneumonia as many bugs cause the same thing. Focus your efforts on what makes something unique.

3. Realize and accept that every Sketchy video and illustration may not click for you.

Everyone has their own preferences. For instance, in the Hepatitis B video, I could never keep the colored lines on the van straight. I know that they are supposed to help the user remember which antigens and antibodies are detectable in variable carrier states, but that’s the extent of my knowledge. I personally had to utilize other resources to drill down these points, and I want to tell you that that’s completely acceptable. Memorizing or utilizing different resources over the same topic doesn’t necessarily correlate with a higher score. Don’t get discouraged if you cannot remember exactly every single point.

USMLE Step Hepatitis


4. I recommend trying to tie in some of these stories with your own intimate emotions, personal connections, or imagination.

I found that forming personal connections to symbols can help separate each concrete video -since videos use the same symbols to illustrate the same concept (fireworks for megaloblastic anemia, pencil for penicillin, etc.). The last thing you want to do is mix up the treatment for an organism because you confuse the context of where a pencil was placed!

5. The USMLE Step 1 questions are tricky on purpose.

Like any standardized test, the writers for USMLE Step 1 know that there is a vast amount of resources for students to use to beat their exam, so they have a knack for concealing or portraying information that you may know in a way that you cannot recognize it.  SketchyMedical is very helpful here, as the funny videos help you to recall the symbols and their mechanisms, and combined with your textbook and classroom knowledge, helps you apply this knowledge to clinical vignettes.

syphilis usmle microbiology

6. Lastly, and this advice isn’t specific to SketchyMedical, but I firmly believe that doing as many practice questions as you can to be essential to success on the USMLE Step 1.

I probably did 8,000-10,000 practice USMLE Step 1 questions, and eventually got to the point where I knew what the question would be asking just by reading the first couple sentences because I had seen the same topic expressed repeatedly through many different angles.

I would read the answer explanations for every single question and each answer choice (some sources go more in depth and have better explanations than others so use your judgment). Doing more questions will also help you remember important facts about a topic and further serves to help solidify SketchyMedical’s artistic creativity.

To recap, my tips for USMLE success are:

how to get 270 on usmle step 1

In conclusion, I hope some of this advice can be implemented into your study plan and contribute towards a successful and satisfying Step 1 score! Happy studying and feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions! We should all be grateful for this amazing and essential resource!

Good luck, and thanks for reading!


For more on USMLE Step 1 Prep, check out: